July 21, 2006 2:25 PM PDT

Homeland Security hires new privacy chief

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Friday tapped one of its own lawyers to become its next privacy chief.

Hugo Teufel III had been serving as an associate general counsel for the department. Before that, he was an associate solicitor at the Department of the Interior, the deputy solicitor general for the state of Colorado, and an attorney in private practice.

"Hugo is highly regarded throughout the department and the legal community for his expertise on privacy, employee relations and civil rights issues," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in a statement, adding that the appointee has earned his "complete confidence and support."

Congress created the chief privacy officer position in 2002 with the intent of making it a watchdog over the intersection of new technologies and federal security activities.

Teufel will become the third person--and second permanent appointee--to fill those shoes. He replaces acting Chief Privacy Officer Maureen Cooney, who plans in September to start as a senior policy adviser for global privacy strategies at Hunton & Williams, a New York City law firm.

Cooney took over last fall after the resignation of Nuala O'Connor Kelly, who became the agency's first chief privacy officer in April 2003 amid controversy over government-sponsored data mining including secretive plans for a new airline passenger screening program.

O'Connor Kelly brought direct privacy office experience to the role, as she had served as chief privacy officer for the U.S. Department of Commerce and had helped to craft privacy protection polices for DoubleClick, the online media services company. She drew praise from civil liberties advocates upon her departure for a top privacy position at General Electric.

But the chief privacy officer position as a whole has generated head-scratching among privacy advocates for the apparently limited independence it enjoys.

For example, because the position was created to report to the Homeland Security secretary and not to Congress, certain items, such as the chief's privacy reports about agency activities, first had to be cleared by the department's top official. According to internal DHS documents obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the office also has found itself hamstrung at times by limited investigatory powers.

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5 comments

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Privacy should be taken seriously.
Good to see that someone has actually taken over this position. For someone who is knowledgeable about privacy, Teuffel sounds like a promising candidate.
With all the government data breaches in the news lately, hopefully he will take into concern issues surrounding email correspondences, security holes and laptop thefts that have affected so many Americans.
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Posted by ml_ess (71 comments )
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privacy for some
We hope this is an earnest effort. The government has been quite hypocritical about it's dealings with privacy under this administration, e.g. Valarie Plame/Ambassador Wilson, NSA... Apparently, when the President makes an off color remark @ the G8, that's when privacy seems to matter.
Posted by marileev (292 comments )
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Just another government cronie
What was this person's background? VP of rival
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Arabian horse farm.
Posted by (156 comments )
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New low for Pres. Bush
If there was ever any doubt regarding his evilness, the appointment of der Teufel himself as privacy chief clearly demonstrates his intent.

President Chavez may be dismayed to discover that he and der Teufel share first names ... but maybe not.
Posted by T100C (4 comments )
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der Teufel
This appointment absolutely confirms my worst suspicions. That the president would appoint der Teufel himself as "privacy czar" clearly demonstrates evil intent.

(But Pres. Chavez may be dismayed to see that he and der Teufel share the same first name).
Posted by T100C (4 comments )
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